Civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the anti-corruption space have outlined a number of new strategies to scale up the fight against corruption, including deployment of undercover security personnel to undertake operations randomly to arrest and hand over suspected corrupt officials for investigations.
They are also calling for the setting up of a rapid response unit to respond to reports of corruption and pass them on for action.
The petition, dated December 8, 2018, was signed by Dr Kojo Pumpuni Asante, Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement at Ghana Centre for Democratic Development, on behalf of Corruption Watch, civil society organisations working on anti-corruption programmes, and media organisations.
The petition is titled ‘Time to Unite against Corruption for Development, Peace and Security’.
Swift application of sanctions
The petition called for swift application of sanctions in the form of both administrative sanctions like warning letters, suspensions and dismissal, and prosecution and recovery of assets when officers are found guilty.
They urged the President to declare ‘Corruption-Free Zones’ in a number of agencies.
They include Ghana Water Company Limited, Electricity Corporation of Ghana, Driver and Licensing Authority, Births and Deaths Registry, all government hospitals, all educational facilities, road traffic regulations enforcement agencies, Passport Office, Scholarship Secretariat, and all government flagship programmes.
At these premises, civil society organisations and media organisations working on anti-corruption programmes want citizens accessing public services to receive clear instructions that corruption is not allowed and will be punished.
They called for clear, visible and understandable information to citizens on the administrative procedures and fees applicable.
“There will be clear and visible information on where citizens can report corruption or attempted corruption.
“This can be done through SMS short codes, Facebook, mobile numbers, email, etc. Corruption-Free Zones should include police checkpoints.
“Also, employ technology to create transparent working areas, using cameras in public spaces,” they added.
Increase awareness creation
According to them, information on administrative procedures should be clear, visible and communicated in multiple languages, using all medium, including working with media houses to dramatically increase knowledge, awareness and transparency of administrative procedures and fees in the services provided.
Massive education campaign
“At the same time, launch a massive education campaign, working through the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), CSOs and media, on corruption, its manifestation, how citizens can avoid it, the sanctions, how citizens can join the fight against corruption, why it is important to fight corruption and the new changes coming in provision of administrative services,” the petition demanded.
One year to implement and monitor results
The campaigners said government would have to implement the strategies in six months and monitor results for another six months, noting that corruption impedes development aspirations, and Ghana must be in a hurry to eradicate it.
Ghana unlikely to meet SDGs if…
They warned that Ghana is unlikely to meet many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) if the country fails to act decisively.
They pledged to work with government and other stakeholders to fully implement this plan, saying Ghana stands ready to fight corruption.
Anti-corruption fight stagnant
The groups stated that the current state of anti-corruption fight in Ghana is a story about stagnation for the last 10 years, at least in terms of outcomes.
The petition referred to the Transparency International (TI) 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which shows that between 2008 and 2017, Ghana has never attained a score of 50, which will represent at least a pass mark, and the country could also not sustain the gains made in the last decad.
According to them, these high perceptions of corruption amongst public officials and informal leaders are informed by the day-to-day experiences of ordinary Ghanaians and confirmed by several studies conducted by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) Consortium.
Additionally, these perceptions are also fuelled by high opacity in the handling of corruption cases by state institutions, making it difficult for Ghanaians to know the steps taken by government to address the high perceptions of corruption among public officials and informal leaders.
Absence of rules to regulate gift giving
According to the campaigners, the absence of rules to regulate gift giving and ethical conduct of public officials and political actors is frustrating all meaningful attempts to raise the bar of integrity among public officials and political actors.
“Because there are no clear rules, it is very difficult to enforce and prosecute offenders based on violations of gift policy, conflict of interest rules and misconduct.
“In essence, the existing framework is neither prohibitory nor binding enough to instil a high sense of good conduct and integrity among public officials, and it leaves room for a number of unethical conducts that cannot be checked under the current regime,” it added.
They lamented the failure of governments to adequately resource the NCCE to pursue its mission of educating citizens about civics, including corruption, particularly the more difficult practices of nepotism, conflict of interest and cronyism, has contributed to the pervasiveness of corruption in Ghana.
The group listed eight initiatives of government which it described as good developments in recent times.
Speed up prosecution of corruption cases
The campaigners challenged government to continue to invest substantively in the interventions listed, intensify implementation and demonstrate that there is a personal price to pay for corruption by speeding up the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, as well as asset recovery of proceeds of corruption.
More radical actions needed
In their view, the government would have to be more radical in its efforts to achieve results in a short-term if Ghana is to deliver a big blow against corruption.
“The many years of stagnating in our efforts to reduce corruption have normalised corruption in many spheres of society, gradually eating away at our moral fibre and our soul as a country.
“It is important to take down some of the everyday symbols of corruption, particularly in the provision of administrative services in the areas of public safety, utilities, health and education.
“We propose a one-year strategy to give Ghanaians visible evidence of a reduction in the incidence of corruption in the provision of administrative services.
“This should be done in three steps by government working together with CSOs in the anti-corruption space and media,” the petition added.
The institutions that sent the petition are Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability (ACILA), Penplusbytes, Alliance for Women in Media, Africa (AWMA), OneGhana Movement, Joy FM and Adom FM.